David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 17 (4) (1996)
Semiotics, the theory of sign and meaning, may help physicians complement the project of interpreting signs and symptoms into diagnoses. A sign stands for something. We communicate indirectly through signs, and make sense of our world by interpreting signs into meaning. Thus, through association and inference, we transform flowers into love, Othello into jealousy, and chest pain into heart attack. Medical semiotics is part of general semiotics, which means the study of life of signs within society. With special reference to a case story, elements from general semiotics, together with two theoreticians of equal importance, the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and the American logician Charles Sanders Peirce, are presented. Two different modes of understanding clinical medicine are contrasted to illustrate the external link between what we believe or suggest, on the one hand, and the external reality on the other hand.
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